As Stéphane Lambiel bowed to the roaring crowds following his long program at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the moment held a hint of nostalgia. He knew it was his final amateur performance.
During his lengthy competitive career, the talented Swiss skater collected a stash of medals, including two World titles and an Olympic silver medal in 2006.
“The Vancouver Olympics were my final goal, and I had no plans to continue competing. I had achieved my competitive dreams, and I did not want to linger in the past,” Lambiel explained.
“Right after the Olympics, I joined Evgeni Plushenko’s ‘Kings on Ice’ European tour, and since then I have done a lot of shows, especially in Japan. I don’t know how many I have done, but I think almost 40 since the Olympics. It has been a busy time.”
Known for his outstanding artistry, Lambiel shared some of his choreographic skills with two of his favorite skaters during the off-season.
“I choreographed programs for Denis Ten and Daisuke Takahashi, my first two students,” Lambiel said with a smile.
“Denis and I were on the ‘Kings on Ice’ tour together, and we spent a lot of time off the ice talking about life and skating. One day he asked me if I would choreograph a program for him. It was interesting because I had no experience as a choreographer, but he seemed confident with his choice. So I said, ‘Well, if we can find time to work together, why not?’”
Lambiel went to Kazakhstan in May to craft a new short program for Ten.
The following week, Lambiel was in Zurich, Switzerland, working with Takahashi.
“It was just great to see the difference between them. One is very young and very fresh, and the other has a lot of experience,” Lambiel recalled. “Denis wanted to impress me, while Daisuke took a more mature approach. I really enjoyed both experiences, and I hope that I can do it more often.”
The Swiss star hastened to add that he is not planning on changing course any time soon. “I am very active and I still want to perform, so choreography is not going to be my major focus, but if I can help my favorite skaters like Denis and Daisuke, that would be awesome,” Lambiel said. “I do not want to do a lot of skaters because I want to focus on my own skating right now.”
When asked if coaching is in his future, Lambiel hesitated. “You can never say never, but right now I can see myself more as a choreographer rather than a coach. You need a lot of patience as a coach. It is a long road to bring someone from a little one to a big star. I think my temperament is not suitable. I am like, ‘Right now, show me this. Give it to me now.’
“I was lucky that my coach, Peter Grütter, who I started with at age 10, was very patient. What I love about Peter is that I always trusted him. He was not only a coach who was always telling me what to do but he was also a good friend. I always felt that he was doing it for me, not for the money or the fame, and he was always there for me.”
In early October, Lambiel performed in the “All That Skate LA” shows headlined by Yu-Na Kim and Michelle Kwan. The standing ovations from the screaming crowds surprised him. “I did not know that I was a star in North America,” he confessed.
“It is so amazing when you go on the ice and feel the atmosphere. I feel that skating is not only about the elements, but when people come to shows they really need to get into the atmosphere, and I felt that in Los Angeles. I came to them and they went with me to my world. It was very satisfying.
“I heard from Denis that Ilia Kulik was in the audience one night and he stood up at the end of my program. When I heard that, I was in heaven.”
Originally published in December 2010